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International Institute for Innovation in Governance

Community power and institutional dependence in the renewable energy sector

The speed and progress of transitions towards renewable energy systems varies greatly between European member states. Among others, these differences have been attributed to the emergence of grassroots initiatives (GIs) that develop radical ideas and sustainable practices. The goal of this paper is to understand the differences in the emergence of GIs for renewable energy in relation to the institutional characteristics of Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. We analyze the possibilities of GIs to emerge and act within three dimensions: the material-economic, the actor-institutional and discursive dimension. We conclude that conditional factors lie within the material-economic dimension in terms of the biophysical conditions, the structure of the economy, energy dependency and the energy market. Within the actor-institutional dimension, we conclude that the presence or absence of fossil fuel incumbents, such as regional utilities, strongly influence the possibilities of GIs. Within the discursive dimension, openness for alternative discourses proved to be enabling for GI-activities, as well as democratized knowledge production. In addition to these conditions of possibility, GIs can also act despite dominant institutions, albeit limited. Finally, GIs need a strong network with knowledge institutes, technology developers and political parties in order to achieve institutional change that enables GIs to flourish. Without institutional space, GIs remain subjected to the dominant power-relations, and cannot exert much influence upon the energy system.

Henk-Jan Kooij, Marieke Oteman, Sietske Veenman, Karl Sperling, Dick Magnusson, Jenny Palm, Frede Hvelplund (2017) Between grassroots and treetops: Community power and institutional dependence in the renewable energy sector in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. Energy Research & Social Science, 37: 52–64

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Evolutionary Governance Theory enters the Canon of Planning Theory

‘From Habermas and Lefebvre to Rancière and Mouffe this handbook captures the zeitgeist of planning theory with contributions from some of the most innovative thinkers in their fields.’ Professor Phil Allmendinger

In a changing and often unpredictable globalized world, planning theory is core to understanding how planning and its practices both function and evolve. As illustrated in The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory, planning and its many roles have changed profoundly over the recent decades; so have the theories, both critical and explanatory, about its practices, values and knowledges. The handbook presents key contemporary themes in planning theory through the views of some of the most innovative thinkers in planning.

The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory includes a chapter on Evolutionary Governance Theory. The chapter analyses the presence, the origins and the potential of co- evolutionary perspectives in planning theory. It pays particular attention to Evolutionary Governance Theory, as a comprehensive perspective on co- evolution in spatial planning and governance. The co- evolutionary approach to planning presents a middle ground between (social) engineering approaches on the one hand and theories completely disqualifying planning and steering on the other. Both ends of the spectrum have often been criticized for respectively overestimating the steering possibilities of governments and the organizing capacities of markets. Planning theory embedded in governance theory can help to analyse and understand a particular governance context, to delineate the possibilities and limits of planning in that context, and to determine which planning efforts are most likely to have a positive impact. In a co-evolutionary perspective, context as such, and governance context in particular, are never fixed, never stable: all elements and structures are continuously influencing each other.

The co-evolutionary perspective as developed in EGT opens up planning theory for a series of relevant concepts from different disciplines, relevant for the analysis of current and potential forms of planning in a community, while conversely giving theories and practices of planning a firm place within governance. The chapter shows how a co-evolutionary perspective is a very useful lens for both analysis and change, for the development of new planning perspectives or for the deliberate circumvention of a current planning system.

Power/knowledge and natural resource management: imagining, creating and protecting the commons

This special issue of Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning draws the attention to ongoing concerns about the management of natural resources (NRM): their exploration, extraction, processing, and commodification is still happening in ways that are perceived to be socially unjust and ecologically unsustainable. The special issue seeks to highlight how the Foucaultian notion of power/knowledge remains underused and underdeveloped in the realm of environmental and resource governance. The contributors argue that any improvement in NRM to social justice or sustainability will have to pass through the knot of power/knowledge. Revealing the actual functioning and effects of current NRM opens potential for critical thinking, shifts power relations and questions the core assumptions of experts or economic outcomes.

Content of the special issue:

 

Power/Knowledge in Natural Resource Management

Editorial
The will to knowledge: natural resource management and power/knowledge dynamics
Kristof Van Assche, Raoul Beunen & Martijn Duineveld

Article
Partnerships for development in the extractive sector: protecting subterranean interests?
Javier Arellano-Yanguas & María del Pilar Bernal-Gómez

Partnerships for Development (PfD) is the antidote that extractive industries have used over the last decade to counteract the proliferation of conflicts with local communities. Normatively, the concept of ‘partnership’ positions companies as actors on an equal footing with others in their attempts to collaborate to achieve development outcomes. This article analyses how the PfD strategy has been crafted and implemented in the extractive sector and assess its potential to contribute significantly to local development. Using the Foucauldian framework on power/knowledge and genealogy, we explain how, in a relatively short time, the interaction between context, preexisting discourses, and actors’ interests shaped the PfD discourse and made it famous. The second part of the paper goes beyond the normative conceptualisation and analyses the implementation of PfD through the case studies of the Antamina copper mine in Peru and the Pacific Rubiales oil operation in Colombia. The companies use the PfD discourse to advance their interest vis-à-vis the different stakeholders, minimising the risk of conflicts and cultivating their reputation. These companies resort to the fragmentation of bargaining spaces and rely on the legitimacy provided by paid experts. The result is that PfD has limited capacity to promote local sustainable development.

Article
Small-scale fisheries within maritime spatial planning: knowledge integration and power
Svein Jentoft

The coasts hold great potential for ‘Blue Growth’, and major industrial and infrastructural developments are already happening there. Such growth, however, comes with risks to marine ecosystems and coastal communities. Competition for space and resources intensifies, turning the coast into an area of social and political conflict, including contestation about knowledge. I argue that there is a need for institutional innovation that allows knowledge integration and conflict resolution to be more interactive and synergistic. The paper critically analyses discourses and practices of interactive governance and co-management while visiting Foucault’s power/knowledge concept for investigating the normativity and effects of participation discourses and practices. This is followed by a discussion of multiple governance paths and their different combinations of resources and forms of expert and local social and ecological knowledge so as to see how they can help resolve conflicts, and enhance governability within maritime spatial planning (MSP) in a way that also serves to create a level playing field for all stakeholders. A particular focus will be on the small-scale fisheries sector, which is the lest powerful stakeholder and the most vulnerable to external pressures. Will MSP help to empower or further marginalize small-scale fishers and fisheries communities?

Article
Natural capital and the political economy of wetland governance in Alberta
Marian Weber, Naomi Krogman, Lee Foote & Rebecca Rooney

The legitimacy of wetland decisions depends on how science and values are integrated and reflected in wetland management decisions. Natural capital and ecosystem services (ES) have become integral to how we think about ecosystem management however there is no consensus on how these concepts should be applied in management. Through the example of Alberta’s wetland policy, we show how policies designed to mainstream natural capital and ES in decision-making are aligned with liberal governance arrangements that emerged in the nineteenth century. There is a governance gap between individual wetland decisions and collective ecological outcomes. The Alberta wetland policy highlights three challenges to embracing the natural capital metaphor in a liberal government context: lack of consensus on policy objectives; case by case enforcement of policy leading to continued wetland drainage; and minimal consequences for non-compliance. The combination of norms about what is fair in terms of government intervention in land use decisions and scientific uncertainty about wetland ecosystem function makes it difficult to achieve consensus on limits to wetland loss contributing to continued loss of wetland ecological function. The discussion highlights the necessity of renewed political discourse about freedom, power, and justice in relation to collective economic and ecological security.

Article
Governing the water user: experiences from Mexico|
Edwin Rap & Philippus Wester

This article traces a policy shift that makes the ‘water user’ the main subject of water governance. From a Foucauldian perspective on governmentality these new subjectivities accompany neo-liberal governmental technologies to devolve autonomy from state institutions to an active user base, whilst retaining some ‘control at a distance’. The expectation is that individual subjects will incorporate control mechanisms and internalize norms and that this leads to new publicly auditable forms of self-regulation. The article questions the underlying assumption that policy necessarily accomplishes its strategic effects through governmentality. For this purpose, it draws on an ethnographic case study of how policy produced a new power/knowledge regime and how different societal actors and ‘user’ groups responded to that. The study specifically investigates the Mexican policy of irrigation management transfer during the 1990s, by which government transferred the public control over irrigation districts to locally organized water users’ associations (WUAs). The article argues that governmental technologies make and govern the ‘water user’ by discursively and materially constituting an organizational arrangement for user management (WUA), more than by directly acting on individuals’ self-regulated conduct. The analysis contributes to a broader reflection on the role of power/knowledge in natural resources management and decentralized resources governance.

Article
Power/knowledge and natural resource management: Foucaultian foundations in the analysis of adaptive governance
Kristof Van Assche, Raoul Beunen , Martijn Duineveld & Monica Gruezmacher

In this paper, we present a conceptual framework extending Foucaultian insights on the relations between power and knowledge to link up with current insights into studies of natural resource management (NRM) and more broadly environmental studies. We classify discourses in NRM according to understandings of social–ecological systems and argue that grasping those larger contexts can push NRM in a different direction, forming a base for more informed and inclusive decision-making. We then reconstruct the importance of materiality, the physical world, for the functioning of NRM within social–ecological systems. The concept of livelihoods is added to our developing Foucaultian frame, as material/discursive entwinements which structure responses of many stakeholders in NRM. Finally, we present an expansion of Foucaultian NRM into adaptive governance thinking as a logical outcome of basic insights into power/knowledge, developed and contextualized in current NRM and its critical analyses.

Article
Materiality in natural resource management: a systems theory view
Vladislav Valentinov

This short paper is a commentary on Van Assche et al.’s article [(2017). Power/knowledge and natural resource management: Foucaultian foundations in the analysis of adaptive governance. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, this issue]. A Luhmannian systems-theoretic perspective proposed in this commentary reaffirms the Foucaultian conceptualization of natural resource management as a site for the interaction of discourses constituting social reality through radical entwinements with materiality, with livelihoods being a key example of such entwinements. Several extensions of Duineveld et al.’s argument are proposed. First, the Luhmannian perspective stresses the problematic nature of such entwinements in view of the inherent system–environment adaptation problems. Second, the idea of livelihoods advocated by the authors is interpreted as the reflection of the sensitivity to the environment beyond the limits imposed by the systemic operational closure and complexity reduction. Third, it is argued that even though specific discursive constructions of materiality may underpin adaptive governance with respect to specific environmental segments, they cannot guarantee system–environment adaptation in any general sense, primarily in view of the unknowability of the environment and the incommensurability of discourses.

Power/knowledge and natural resource management: Foucaultian foundations in the analysis of adaptive governance

In this paper, we present a conceptual framework extending Foucaultian insights on the relations between power and knowledge to link up with current insights into studies of natural resource management (NRM) and more broadly environmental studies. We classify discourses in NRM according to understandings of social–ecological systems and argue that grasping those larger contexts can push NRM in a different direction, forming a base for more informed and inclusive decision-making. We then reconstruct the importance of materiality, the physical world, for the functioning of NRM within social–ecological systems. The concept of livelihoods is added to our developing Foucaultian frame, as material/discursive entwinements which structure responses of many stakeholders in NRM. Finally, we present an expansion of Foucaultian NRM into adaptive governance thinking as a logical outcome of basic insights into power/knowledge, developed and contextualized in current NRM and its critical analyses. Download: here

New book chapter in: Key Thinkers on Cities

New book chapter on Flyvbjerg by Martijn Duineveld, Kristof Van Assche and Raoul Beunen in: Key Thinkers on Cities (Regan Koch – Queen Mary University of London & Alan Latham – University College London)

Key Thinkers on Cities provides an engaging introduction to the dynamic intellectual field of urban studies. It profiles the work of 40 innovative thinkers who represent the broad reach of contemporary urban scholarship and whose ideas have shaped the way cities around the world are understood, researched, debated, and acted upon. Providing a synoptic overview that spans a wide range of academic and professional disciplines, theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches, the entry for each key thinker comprises:

  • A succinct introduction and overview
  • Intellectual biography and research focus
  • An explication of key ideas
  • Contributions to urban studies

The book offers a fresh look at well-known thinkers who have been foundational to urban scholarship, including Jane Jacobs, Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells, and David Harvey. It also incorporates those who have helped to bring a concern for cities to more widespread audiences, such as Jan Gehl, Mike Davis, and Enrique Peñalosa. Notably, the book also includes a range of thinkers who have more recently begun to shape the study of cities through engagements with art, architecture, computer modelling, ethnography, public health, post-colonial theory, and more.

With an introduction that provides a mapping of the current transdisciplinary field, and individual entries by those currently involved in cutting edge urban research in the Global North and South, this book promises to be an essential text for anyone interested in the study of cities and urban life. It will be of use to those in the fields of anthropology, economics, geography, sociology, and urban planning. https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/key-thinkers-on-the-city/book244138

Landscape governance, environmental policy, spatial planning and place branding

Place branding strategies are increasingly used to promote cities, regions and national parks. In this paper we analyse the evolution of landscape governance in three Flemish regions to discern the virtues of these place branding strategies in relation to other forms of environmental policy and spatial planning. In all three regions state led policies and comprehensive planning efforts were gradually complemented and replaced by more participatory planning approaches and place branding strategies that use the landscape as a frame for coordinating land use activities and development. The study shows that place branding strategies can be a useful addition to other policy instruments and strategies. A focus on place identity and value creation can help in reconciling the various environmental, social, and economic interests. The study also shows that policies, plans and place brands that are developed outside a political context that is experienced as legitimate and inclusive by the different stakeholders are more difficult to implement and might in the long run undermine landscape governance.

Download the paper via Researchgate or Academia

Witchcraft, oracle, and magic in the kingdom of planning: A reflection on planning theory and practice

“This paper offers a response to a claim in Planning Theory that “there is no planning—only planning practices“.

“When a highly esteemed colleague as Prof Alexander looks back at his distinguished career and observes a stockpile of problems in the planning discipline, to the extent that both planning and planning theory seem to lose their unity and validity (Alexander, 2016), there is ample reason to listen”.

What exactly then is the problem? Is planning facing a deep crisis, and might it be on the verge of vanishing, as philosophy has left us, as the novel has been declared dead, together with God? Well, for many, God, philosophy and the novel are very much alive, and the proclamations of existential threat are usually marks of a transitional stage, not the end. Even the boogeyman of neo- liberalism did not kill planning, nor did the competition with other expert groups. What seems at stake here is the soul of planning in a very modernist understanding of the field; a field where modernist philosophies lingered on much longer than in neighboring disciplines and fields (Van Assche et al.,2014).

What, indeed, looks highly unlikely at the moment is a degree of cohesion in theory and practice which can only exist in a modernist phantasy of planners assisting governments to optimize spatial organization in a scientific, that is, unambiguous manner. In this myth the plan is endowed with magical powers of coordination, leading to its own implementation, and where power/knowledge dynamics suddenly stops after the planner enters the room.

This enduring bewitching by modernism one can easily discern in planning theory and praxis. One can see it in the continuous confusion of analytic and normative statements within and beyond academia, in the general lack of reflection on normativity, in the overly high expectations of theory, as somehow able to tell practitioners what to do. It is present in the courses on planning ethics, which pretend to know what correct behavior is, without even trying to engage with the variety of ethical theories. The witchcraft is at work among the adepts of collaborative planning, where many still expect to find a magical formula which reveals the ultimate balance between participation and representation, in procedures enabling the perfectability of space and society…..”

The full article can be downloaded here

Natural capital and the political economy of wetland governance in Alberta

The legitimacy of wetland decisions depends on how science and values are integrated and reflected in wetland management decisions. Natural capital and ecosystem services (ES) have become integral to how we think about ecosystem management however there is no consensus on how these concepts should be applied in management. Through the example of Alberta’s wetland policy, we show how policies designed to mainstream natural capital and ES in decision-making are aligned with liberal governance arrangements that emerged in the nineteenth century. There is a governance gap between individual wetland decisions and collective ecological outcomes. The Alberta wetland policy highlights three challenges to embracing the natural capital metaphor in a liberal government context: lack of consensus on policy objectives; case by case enforcement of policy leading to continued wetland drainage; and minimal consequences for non-compliance. The combination of norms about what is fair in terms of government intervention in land use decisions and scientific uncertainty about wetland ecosystem function makes it difficult to achieve consensus on limits to wetland loss contributing to continued loss of wetland ecological function. The discussion highlights the necessity of renewed political discourse about freedom, power, and justice in relation to collective economic and ecological security.

Weber, M., Krogman, M., Foote, L. & Rooney, R. (2017) Natural capital and the political economy of wetland governance in Alberta. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning. Online first.

Small-scale fisheries within maritime spatial planning

The coasts hold great potential for ‘Blue Growth’, and major industrial and infrastructural developments are already happening there. Such growth, however, comes with risks to marine ecosystems and coastal communities. Competition for space and resources intensifies, turning the coast into an area of social and political conflict, including contestation about knowledge. This paper argues that there is a need for institutional innovation that allows knowledge integration and conflict resolution to be more interactive and synergistic. The paper critically analyses discourses and practices of interactive governance and co-management while visiting Foucault’s power/knowledge concept for investigating the normativity and effects of participation discourses and practices. This is followed by a discussion of multiple governance paths and their different combinations of resources and forms of expert and local social and ecological knowledge so as to see how they can help resolve conflicts, and enhance governability within maritime spatial planning (MSP) in a way that also serves to create a level playing field for all stakeholders. A particular focus will be on the small-scale fisheries sector, which is the lest powerful stakeholder and the most vulnerable to external pressures. Will MSP help to empower or further marginalize small-scale fishers and fisheries communities?

Jentoft, S. (2017). Small-scale fisheries within maritime spatial planning: knowledge integration and power. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 1-13.

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